Profiling Tepehua

By Moonyeen King

President of the Board for Tepehua

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Tepehua 1


The Tepehuas are an indigenous people whose name in Nahuatl means ‘people of the mountains’. They are originally from Hildago, Veracruz and the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The Tepehuas are not to be confused with the Tepehuans which is a totally different tribe and region. Tepehuas are from the  Totonacan family whilst Tepehuans are from the Uto-Aztecan.

Tepehua is spoken in the East of Central Mexico and Tepehuan is spoken in the North West.

Just to confuse, within the Tepehua Tribe three languages are spoken because the mountain area isolated the villages and the groups never mingled. The same applies to the Tepehuans; also three languages in one tribe. According to Wikipedia trivia, from the same area as the Tepehuas came the ant Tepeguas.  ‘Tepe’ means mountain/hill.

Migration was inevitable due to natural disasters, famine, fire and pestilence.  The families moved south over the generations, very slowly, with several conquerors in between. The usual plunders of war - rape, mixed marriages, expansion of the tribe—changed tribal blood but a much stronger society evolved. As mountain people it was natural they picked familiar territory, most settling in mountainous areas or near the water. Here in Chapala was the perfect place, 5,000 feet above sea level and on a natural lake.

The hills of Tepehua are beautiful, but unforgiving. It is very hard to make a living off the land which is volcanic and has very little soil. Most of the male population has turned to construction, leaving the hill and going to work in the local Lakeside towns looking for any kind of employment. Lack of education has kept them in the barrios in which they were born. That is now changing.

The whole area has opened up to the world and, as other people settle here and bring in the outside world, education is needed. With the influence of outsiders education is coming at a rapid pace to the barrios.

Tepehua Community Center’s main objective is helping the people get education and we have put hundreds through school. Although education has been interrupted for two years, we are trying to catch up and celebrate the opening of the schools again for the rest of 2021. A better assessment of the damage done by the pandemic will be clearer at the end of this last 2021 semester.  Some of the students haven’t come back.

Our University program always needs sponsors, as higher education is expensive.  From first grade donations for books, uniforms, registration fees, etc. are needed, as large families cannot afford to send all their children to school. Our world needs all of them in school to strengthen the middle class. They are the ones we all rely on the most. The plumbers, bricklayers, house keepers and gardeners, shop keepers, waiters, police and firemen to name a few. They are the ones that support the whole, but they need those first informative years spent on learning. Basic education is supposed to be free, it isn’t. With help from Lakeside we have changed a whole generation. If we change a few more they will not need our help, they will have changed their world to a level playing field.


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